The St. Joseph-Ogden High School girls’ basketball team ended the year with a pair of wins.
Just what the Spartans needed after a challenging December slate has them primed for another challenge: the start of Illini Prairie Conference play.
SJO (10-5) is set to play its first conference game at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Pontiac. The league opener comes after SJO posted a 4-2 record during the final two weeks of December, beating Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin 48-24 at home on Dec. 16 and topping Champaign Central 58-52 at home on Dec. 20.
The two nonconference wins didn’t translate into early success at the State Farm Holiday Classic for the Spartans. SJO lost its first two games at the 16-team small-school tournament held in Bloomington-Normal, falling 50-40 to Normal U-High on Dec. 27 and losing 67-58 to Rockford Lutheran on Dec. 28.
SJO rebounded, however, with a 60-16 win against Riverdale on Dec. 28 and won the 13th-place game, topping El Paso-Gridley 49-29 on Dec. 29.
Here’s a look back at the last six games for the Spartans before the season is slated to resume later this week:
Dec. 29: SJO 49, El Paso-Gridley 29
The Spartans performed well in the second half to earn the win in the 13th-place game of the State Farm Holiday Classic held at Normal Community High School.
Trailing 11-8 at the end of the first quarter, SJO still trailed 17-14 at halftime before outscoring the Titans 22-6 in the third quarter to take a convincing 36-23 lead.
Ella Armstrong poured in a team-high 16 points for the Spartans, with Alyssa Hamilton (nine points), Peyton Jones (eight points) and Payton Jacob (eight points) complementing Armstrong.
Ashlyn Lannert and Taylor Wells each finished with four points.
Dec. 28: SJO 60, Riverdale 16
SJO ended its two-game skid at the State Farm Holiday Classic with a rout in the 13th-place semifinal game at Normal Community High School.
The outcome was never in doubt, with SJO leading 16-3 at the end of the first quarter, 36-6 at halftime and 50-16 by the end of the third quarter.
Nine different Spartans entered the scoring column, with Lannert dropping in a game-high 18 points.
Armstrong scored 11 points and Wells added 10 points to join Lannert in double figures.
Jacob (six points), Hamilton (four points), Addison Frick (four points), Jones (three points), Peyton Williams (two points) and Alison Kearney (two points) also chipped in during the win.
Rockford Lutheran 67, SJO 58
In the Spartans’ first game on Dec. 28, SJO couldn’t push past Rockford Lutheran in a consolation quarterfinal game defeat at Bloomington High School.
The Spartans led 17-13 at the end of the first quarter before the Crusaders went ahead 33-29 at halftime and carried a 44-39 lead into the fourth quarter.
Four Spartans reached double figures, led by 15 points from Armstrong. Wells and Lannert each contributed 12 points, with Jacob tossing in 11 points.
Jones (four points), Hamilton (two points) and Frick (two points) also scored.
Dec. 27: Normal U-High 50, SJO 40
The fourth-seeded Spartans lost to the 13th-seeded Pioneers in a first-round upset loss of the State Farm Holiday Classic at Normal Community High School.
SJO led 12-10 at the end of the first quarter, but trailed 22-15 at halftime and 34-24 to start the fourth quarter.
Lannert scored a team-high 11 points for the Spartans, with Armstrong adding nine points. Jones and Jacob each scored six points, while Wells (four points), Frick (three points) and Hamilton (one point) also contributed.
Dec. 20: SJO 58, Champaign Central 52
In a new addition to the schedule after Cissna Park could not play because of COVID-19 protocols, the Spartans answered the call in the fourth quarter to post a nonconference home win.
SJO led 18-13 at the end of the first quarter and 34-28 at halftime, but a poor third quarter saw the Spartans trailing 43-39 to start the fourth quarter.
SJO had three players finish in double figures, paced by 13 points from Armstrong to go along with 10 points apiece from Frick and Wells.
Lannert added eight points, while Jones pitched in seven points. Jacob (four points), Addy Martinie (three points) and Hamilton (three points) also played roles in the victory.
Dec. 16: SJO 48, BHRA 24
Strong defense led the way in a home nonconference win that ended a two-game losing streak for the Spartans.
SJO enjoyed a 10-2 lead at the end of the first quarter that increased to 28-6 at halftime and remained steady at 40-18 by the start of the fourth quarter.
Armstrong scored a game-high 13 points to spark SJO, while Wells contributed 10 points and Lannert finished with eight points. Kearney and Jacob each had four points, while Frick and Hamilton each wound up with three points.
Martinie (two points) and Jacob (one point) also chipped in.